User sees – user buys. A website is all about the user. However, the irony is that we get so engrossed in technology that we forget the user altogether. In fact, various studies have shown that website owners spend 90% of their money on web development and backend and a mere 10% on the front end or user interface. Smart webmasters have always known that an online business is still about people and buyers.
Comparing a normal retail store with a website
How does a normal retail store look like? Generally, when you enter the store you are guided through various departments. The happening products are displayed on the shop front which is the prime real estate. When you look at the store design more closely, you would realize that buyers are being led to specific areas with the use of bold signs and displays. Basically, shop owners show you what they want you to see and buy. Secondly, the shops are always clean and uncluttered.
Coming to a website, this is exactly what needs to be replicated. The main page must display the products which are hot and happening. The home page must also create the right impression and compel visitors to explore other pages. This can only be done by designing an effective user interface. Your backend will only come into the picture when buyers decide to make a purchase. Otherwise, they are idle infrastructure. You must think of a shop floor when designing your website.
Navigation buttons get scant respect while designing a web page. In some cases, you have to search for the right button to click. Effective web pages must have navigation buttons that are prominent and visually appealing. There must be multiple navigation channels on each page. There must be two sets of buttons – images which are bold and text links.
An uncluttered look is crucial. There are many websites that fill up their web pages with Google Advertisements. Finding content in this clutter becomes impossible. No wonder visitors are cheesed off. If you are selling products on your site, it is recommended that you avoid advertisements of such nature. You have a choice – either sell your product or sell someone else’s.
The web 2.0 user interface
Interactivity has now become a buzzword. Buyers want to know about products and services from other buyers. Traditional advertisements are seen as marketing ploys by business ventures. It is therefore important to provide a platform for feedback and reviews by buyers and customers. “Hot selling products” and “Just sold products” are an important part of the selling strategy. This real-time information has the potential to draw the attention of prospective customers.
Drawing customer attention
An effective user interface is one where visitors are compelled to see what the webmaster wants them to. Amazon website is a good example of how this works. When you search for a book on Amazon, you are not only provided with a result but also with alternatives.
For example, you would get information on what others have actually purchased after viewing the search result. You would also be told about availability of similar books or books with related content. User interfaces such as these can increase sales of other products and improve overall profitability.
The Google look
The user interface of Google search is worth a look. In this case there is fulfillment when a visitor makes a search – as good as a sale. The sparse and simple look is simply awesome. The emphasis is on search and nothing else. Google could have done many things with this user interface. It could have tried to sell its other products from the search page. But they intentionally avoided this temptation. Microsoft Bing unfortunately seems to forget this fact.
This user interface has been a signature look and feel of Google which they have carried to their web browser Chrome. This is another piece of brilliance which makes browsing a real pleasure. The emphasis is on utility and ease of use.
Changing the user interface
One of the important aspects of user interface design is adaptation. You must monitor user behavior by using analytic tools and modify the design accordingly. Changes in user interface need not be dramatic. In fact, small changes in navigation can bring about major improvements. You must however avoid changing your navigation pattern drastically so that customers who visit your site often are not frustrated by frequent changes.
Essentially the focus must remain on customers and not on technical wizardry. Long drawn Flash animations look great when seen independently but as part of a website they may be redundant. Remember that you have very little time to impress visitors. Moreover people don’t have the patience and want to get their work done fast. Showing Flash or any other movies is surely a bad idea.
Conclusion: User interface can make or break your website. Front end design is now an established element of web design. We have to put in more emphasis on this aspect of website development if we want to achieve better results. Whatever I have said may seem obvious but in practice we get carried away by technology and forget the basics of human behavior. Paying more attention to user interface pays rich dividend. In some cases they dramatically increase profitability of a website.
Guest author Nitin Aggarwal is the owner and founder of OffshoreAlly.com, a company that provides quality virtual assistant and link building services. He is technology a geek and likes to keep himself abreast with latest in the tech world. He is also an avid blogger.